“Ad Astra” stars Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland. Released on September 20, 2019, the film is about an astronaut who travels to outer space to find his missing father.
The film is directed by James Gray, who also directed films such as “Little Odessa”, “We Own the Night”, “Two Lovers”, and “The Lost City of Z”. The awards season just isn’t complete without a film that takes audiences on a trip to outer space. Last weekend, we started off this year’s awards season on a pretty unusual note, with a film about strippers receiving more praise than a film about a man and a painting that originally looked like a possible Oscar contender. This weekend doesn’t have a lot of big surprises compared to last weekend, but we are getting a well-received space film with Brad Pitt, so that’s something. While I’m not familiar with Gray’s other works, I am overly familiar with Pitt as he has found success in his recent films that involve him as either an actor or a producer or both. So far, the trailers indicate that it’ll have a rousing mixture between sci-fi and drama, but does it translate well for audiences?
Set in the near future, the film centers on Major Roy McBride (Pitt), an astronaut who discovers that the mysterious power surges are affecting the Solar System and that the human race is in danger because of them. He later finds out that the surges come from a missing base known as the “Lima Project”, lead by Roy’s father Clifford McBride (Jones). With time running short, Roy and his crew must travel to the outer reaches of space to retrieve Clifford and prevent the surges from destroying all life on Earth. This is the type of sci-fi film that's more reliant on dialogue-heavy moments rather than big-budget action, which is fine as long as it has a story that is as engaging as its visual style. The story does feature space travel, but it also features a father-son relationship that involves the son learning more about his father during his rescue mission. The intentions of telling this story were quite noticable and its technical aspects were nothing but impressive. However, they weren't able to help the film become the next "Intersteller" and to me, that's a pretty darn shame. Brad Pitt was able to carry this spaceship forward with his worthy performance as Roy, and Tommy Lee Jones was pretty decent in his role as his father. Donald Sutherland wasn't in the film that much, but he did a nice job with his performance as well. The technical aspects were the main highlights of the film, ranging from its gorgeous visuals to its cinematography. Everything about them was just beautiful to look at. Heck, even the production designs were admittedly breathtaking. I would also give the sound editing team credit for making the experience as realistic as they can. Director James Gray has said that he wanted to make a film that features the most realistic depiction of space travel ever. If that's the case, then he handled that job extremely well, in my opinion. Unfortunately, with all of the technical achievements that this film had, they weren’t enough to save it from its bland second half. To its credit, the film did a nice job at balancing the thrills with the drama in the first half, but as it went on, I felt that it’s struggling to prevent that balance from drifting off into space. The second half of the film was filled with nothing but inconsistent pacing and unrewarding emotion. As a result, it became something that’s best described as a five-hour road trip that overstayed its welcome by the third stop. I swear, I was on the verge of falling asleep during a few scenes in the second half. I honestly thought that a film about space travel was supposed to excite me, not sing me a lullaby. It had the right idea on where it's trying to do, but its execution wasn’t exactly on par with what I was expected when it comes to the pacing.
Overall, “Ad Astra” is another technical marvel that’s visually engrossing, but its intriguing premise didn’t have enough juice to prevent this spaceship from floating off into the deepest parts of space. Despite some worthy performances from Pitt and Jones and its fantastic visual style, the film was let down by some pacing issues and its lifeless second half. It’s quite a shame that it wasn’t as riveting as I wanted it to be, but I did enjoy its technical qualities, so that counts as something. If you’re planning on seeing the film for yourself, go into it with caution just in case.